Kyle Clifford, Ilya Bryzgalov, Michal Rozsival

Tonight in the West: Kings clinch spot, Blackhawks and Ducks build cushions

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Western Conference playoff race

p – 1. Vancouver – 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. San Jose – 103 pts (2 GR)
y-3. Detroit – 102 pts (2 GR)
4. Nashville – 97 pts (2 GR)
5. Los Angeles – 98 pts (2 GR)
6. Phoenix – 97 pts (2 GR)
7. Anaheim – 95 pts (2 GR)
8. Chicago – 95 pts (2 GR)
e-9. Calgary – 93 pts (1 GR)
10. Dallas – 91 pts (3 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot
e- eliminated from playoffs

Carolina 3, Detroit 0

Read the full recap here.

The Red Wings lost this game, but with the Sharks’ loss, they basically just stood in place tonight (albeit losing one of their last chances to improve). The biggest loss, though, came in the form of Henrik Zetterberg’s injury.

Chicago 4, St. Louis 3 (OT)

This game also received the fancy pants recap treatment, as you can read here.

Chicago now has a four-point lead over the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot, with two games left. They also ended the night tied with the Ducks with 95 points, although Anaheim holds a tiebreaker advantage that would force the Blackhawks to earn one more point. (The Ducks have 41 non-shootout wins to the ‘Hawks 37, so that advantage will remain.)

Dallas has three games left to close that four-point gap, with their schedule being decidedly easier that Chicago’s remaining schedule (even if two games against the Red Wings will be more manageable without Zetterberg). Still, Chicago also has two more non-shootout wins, so they hold a nice tiebreaker advantage too.

Most simply, Chicago could clinch a playoff spot with three points in their final two games, since the most points Dallas can get is 97. Dropping games – especially in regulation – could make things a lot more complicated.

Anyway, before we move on to the next game, here’s video of that much-debated Marian Hossa goal.

Calgary 6,  Edmonton

The Flames were eliminated from contention tonight, but Jarome Iginla reached 42 goals on the season with a hat trick in his first game since hitting the 1,000-point mark. It’s pretty hard to argue with Calgary’s decision not to trade Iggy, even if they fell just a bit short of the playoffs.

Anaheim 6, San Jose 2

This game was all about Corey Perry, who scored a hat trick to become the first (and possibly only) player in the NHL to hit 50 goals. Perry also had an assist, by the way. (Watch video footage of his great night here.)

The Ducks received a scare when Ray Emery left the net, but he was cleared to play (yet stayed on the bench since the score was so lopsided).

Anaheim can smell the playoffs at this point, but aren’t guaranteed a spot just now. All they need is two more points, though, because the Stars won’t be able to overcome the Blackhawks’ tiebreaker lead in non-shootout wins.

Los Angeles 3, Phoenix 2 (SO)

Jarret Stoll scored the Kings’ first goal and then earned the shootout winner (he’s nine for 10 in that category this season, by the way) to clinch a playoff berth for the Kings. The win also gives Los Angeles a brief hold of fourth place in the West, with 98 points on the season and two games left.

The loss also moves the Coyotes down to sixth place in the West, since the fifth-place Nashville Predators have one more win (both teams have 37 non-shootout wins, though).

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.